When seeking out the best sweet pickle relish, my main bit of advice is to avoid anything labeled "hot dog relish." We included this variety, which is an amalgam of typical sweet relish and yellow mustard, in our recent taste test since so many major brands offer a version of it. They were categorically bad: harsh flavor, questionable texture, and generally unpleasant.
Instead, if hot dogs are on the menu, scoop up a couple of packages of our favorite franks, your favorite yellow mustard, and the best relish on the market. In our estimation, that means Wickles Original Relish, which we'll also be deploying in tuna salad and tartar sauce from here on out. Afraid you can't find it in your local grocer? We also picked a runner-up that your sure to find practically anywhere pickle relish is sold—if you look in the right place, that is. For our methodology and the full list of relishes we tasted, scroll to the bottom of the page. First up, the rankings!
Our Favorite Pickle Relish: Wickles
The best pickle relish had to be sweet—but not too sweet. As we learned after tasting many, many relishes, some are so sugary they taste practically like sour candy. But Wickles hits a perfect balance of sweetness, bordered by a savory kick from garlic and turmeric and a welcome hit of heat. Scared of hot relish? Don't be. The spice level here is mild, and when dolloped on a hot dog or stirred into tuna salad, delivers a lively, nuanced flavor the other relishes couldn't provide.
Wickles relish also offers ideal texture: the liquidy part of the relish isn't too watery nor too gloppy; and the crunchy pickle bits are evenly and finely chopped, with a toothsome crunch that didn't suffer from the chewy rubberiness found in many samples.
The Best Sweet Relish for Celery Lovers: Claussen
With a hugely prominent celery-seed note and a strong taste of turmeric, Claussen's sweet relish is a perfect addition to tuna salad. Commerce editor Emily Johnson said that she "would eat this on its own with a spoon," praising its crunchiness and calling it the best-looking relish of the lot. If you're looking for this one in store, however, veer your cart away from the condiments aisle and head for the refrigerator section. Much like its pickle sister, which won our classic kosher dill spear taste test, this relish is shipped and stored cold, which likely contributes to that superior crunch.
What We Were Looking For
When seeking pickle relish, we generally want sweet relish—dill-relish lovers, frankly, can just chop up a bunch of dill pickles and be done with it. However, within the confines of sweet relish, there are a few categories to consider. Among them: classic sweet relish, "India" relish, and "hot dog" relish. You're probably familier with the first. The second (invented by the Heinz company in 1889,) is named for the mix of vaguely curry-ish spices it's flavored with and its questionable resemblance to pickles of actual Indian origin. The last category is a combination of classic sweet relish and yellow mustard.
While we didn't necessarily dislike the India relishes, many tasters found the presence of cinnamon and allspice to be ill-fitting in a sweet and vinegary pickle relish, like a Christmas condiment nobody asked for. As for the so called "hot dog" relish, like that other "convenience" product of peanut butter mixed with jelly in one jar, we recommend ignoring it wholly and completely and just combining your favorite brands of both on your own.
We sampled 17 varieties of wieners and franks to find one that we could declare top dog. Did your favorite make the cut?
As for determining the best relish, we wanted something sweet, but not too sweet. So many of the samples we tasted were cloying and reminded us of candy in the worst way possible. We also wanted crunch, but again, not too much. Any deviation towards too crisp or too mushy or too rubbery, and the relish was quickly removed from the running. Finally, we needed punch: from vinegar of course, but also a mix of complementary spices (mustard seed, celery seed, turmeric). Our two favorite relishes also contained red bell pepper and either onion or garlic, adding another level of sweetness as well as a savory nuance that most one-note contenders just didn't have.
How We Tested
A team of Epicurious editors and staff sampled 21 relishes plain, unadorned, straight out of the jar. We then sampled the top contenders on hot dogs as well as on crackers. And then some of us ate our favorites, again, straight out of the jar.
Tasters went in blind and while the relishes were separated into three categories (India, classic, and hot dog), no distinction was made between organic and non-organic products during tasting.
The Other Relishes We Tasted
In alphabetical order:
B&G Hot Dog Relish
B&G India Relish
B&G Sweet Relish
Cains Hot Dog Relish
Cains Sweet Pickle Relish
Del Monte Hot Dog Relish
Del Monte Sweet Pickle Relish
Gedney Organic Farm Fresh Sweet Pickle Relish
Gedney Sweet Pickle Relish
Heinz Hot Dog Relish
Heinz India Relish
Heinz Sweet Relish
Mt. Olive Hot Dog Relish
Mt. Olive India Relish
Mt. Olive Simply Relish
Mt. Olive Sweet Relish
Thrive Market Organic Sweet Relish
Vlasic Homestyle Sweet Relish
Woodstock Organic Sweet Relish
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Originally Appeared on Epicurious